Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Czech Christmas traditions - Christmas Eve

While the main event of the day is the festive dinner and the gifts under the tree, many families here still take pleasure in the few rituals that have to do with looking into the future, because Christmas - or more precisely the Winter solstice with its promise of new light - used to be seen as the start of the new year. The roots of these customs go back to pagan times.
Here are a few:
Lead melting : take a lump of lead (used to be a lead coin, now a fishing weight) and melt it in a strong pan. Pour a small amount of the molten lead into a pan with tepid water. The resulting shape of the solidified lead signifies your future.
Walnut boats : each person puts a small candle in a half-shell. These 'boats' then float in a large basin. Whose boat sails towards the middle will leave home, boats that stay near the rim signify those who stay at home, and if two boats keep sailing next to one another, these two people will be very close.
Shoe throwing : this is a custom for single women. Stand at the furtherest part of the room, with your back facing the door. Throw a shoe over your head towards the door: if it lands with its tip towards the door, you will marry. If it faces back into the room, you will stay single.
Apple cutting : (this only for the brave!) Cut an apple in half, cross-wise. If the seed-chamber is in the shape of a star, you will have a good, healthy year. If it is misshapen or rotten, you will be ill. If it is in the shape of a cross, you will die.
Spring-gazing : At midnight, girls go to the nearest spring or pond - if it is frozen, they make a hole in the ice. Water at midnight is magical, as it does not reflect your face but instead acts as a window into your future.

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